Overthinking multigraft apple tree question

One of my aims is to have a variety of apples ripening for my whole season here in Zone 6B on just a few trees. The question I cannot find an answer too, which may mean it’s a non-issue is:

Are there pros and cons to having one tree bearing fruits for the length of the season versus having all fruits that come at the same time on the same tree?

The trees will be close enough together that there should not be pollination issues in either event. I am intending at least semi-dwarf stock, if not full-sized roots, but I’m going to have to try and review what I have in ground, as retaining that information was not part of my process when I planted my first trees.


What you need are people who grow 100s of apples like @39thparallel to give some advice on some early , mid season, and late apples. How many trees total will you have?

1 Like

Group the ones with similar blossoming time on each tree so you can spray without killing pollinators on the late-blooming ones. I didn’t take that into account when I started grating my multi-variety trees. I wish I had known. Even if you hope to stay organic, you will probably still need Spinosad on them if you are east of the Mississippi River.


From what I have heard the con of a multi grafted tree is one type can start to take over. Generally even with planting you will look at vigor of the different varieties. Also 1 standard tree is going to give less apples than 2 standard apple trees of course. Another coin I suppose is you need to learn to graft so you can get the scion you want for the varieties you want or you have to pick a nursery with their chosen varieties. Fast Growing trees has a Honey Crisp, Red Fuji, Braeburn, yellow delicious and a Granny Smith one and Stark bros had the same varieties except yellow delicious was yellow transparent. Of course there was a supply shortage on Stark Brothers so I only had one option even though I ordered in November. Then if you get it from a nursery sometimes they don’t offer specific varieties of the varieties you want if it is less grafts.

I’ll likely have about 6 trees total. Some of my grafting practice this year will amount to scion banking for later years, with potted trees (single or multigrafted themselves) being given away to family and neighbors in a year or two as the fielded trees continue to grow into greater accomodation.

The goal, again, is to just be able to eat from the trees for as long during the year as possible. Although storage potential is likely to evolve, I’m not looking to grow enough to be commercial, and the few neighbors I have can certainly benefit from an excess.

I had not yet considered vigor. That’s a good point. I could prune overly vigous ones moe regularly, but i’d rather not create unnecessary work for myself, especially as I will most likely continue to age.

My overthinking amounts more to: is a longer fruiting period going to be harder on the tree than having fruits of a similar ripening habit. I expect the total number of fruits per tree would land about the same regardless, but to what effect on the natural processes of the roots and trunk? Would ripening fruit over five months be harder on it than if the ripening was all confined to five or six weeks? and, if so, would it be enough of a difference to shorten the lifespan or weaken the branches to a point where it would drop them?

1 Like

I’m up to 130 varieties on one tree.

1 - as another person mentioned, decide if you will spray or not. Here in the cold north EVERYTHING flowers in about a 1-2 week period so it is not an issue. In warmer climates where an early apple may flower 6-8 weeks earlier than a late it would be harder to spray and avoid killing bees.

2 - consider disease resistance. A susciptable variety that gets fireblight or other diseas can infect the whole trunk and kill off every graft. That is why I like multitrunk format for a Frankenstein tree. You can cut back one trunk completely and still save the other trunks vs a central leader tree.

3 - I prefer semi-standard to dwarfs in cold climates. The dwarfs have too low vigor and can’t fight back/recover after disease or borer in my short seasons. I would rather have one 12’ tall, 20’ wide semi-standard than 2 rows of 3-4 dwarfs each.

4 - last year got fruit from July to late October. 12-20 apples of each that fruited (only about 30% of grafts were mature). Enough for a nice taste and not overwhelming my fridge space.

That said I think a borer was the reason for a dead trunk last year and now my others are not looking great either. However nearly all my original Bud9’s died well before so it happens. I have backup grafts on other trees.

With regards to vigor. I have had no problems with biannual fruiting so far but I have not hit full fruiting yet.

1 Like

That even happens in 6a where I’m at. The Great Lakes help buffer the warm air with the cold from the lakes. It cools the breezes a lot! So spring is usually slow to start here. When it finally does everything blooms!

I would add managing the grafts is not hard even with an aggressive grower, just prune that one an extra time, keeps it in line with other grafts. So I never had a problem with an aggressive grower, I made sure it didn’t have a chance to overtake anything.
Also the way I like to do it is open bowl type tree structure. (I don’t grow apples) and each scaffold is a cultivar, from 3-5 scaffolds. Sometimes I would form a secondary scaffold on one of the scaffolds, so it would have two cultivars. Anyways keeping them in single order scaffolds makes it easier to prune one scaffold harder then the others to control aggressive growth. The short version: aggressive growth has never been a problem at all for me.
I like the open bowl because I can keep tree very low. My trees stay under 7 feet no matter what rootstock. I have been doing it a decade now and love backyard orchard culture techniques. Definitely works.
And yes I get fruit the whole season, that is so cool.

1 Like

You are my hero. :vulcan_salute:

That’s impressive. If get to have even half that on one tree, I’ll probably be happy to keep a single tree with maybe a second to backup favorites and more rare selections.

My multigraft semidwarf apple has about two dozen varieties currently, and I’ve come to think that I’d rather I had two or three slightly smaller trees six or eight varieties on each. I’ve got stuff stuck here, there, everywhere, and I’d be better off if things were simpler. On some varieties I only get two or three apples.

But I don’t really have space foe any more trees, and I don’t want to give up any of the varieties I have! You might be happy with lots of things on one tree, but if I were in your position I’d probably have more trees.

1 Like

I have a Dolgo crab in my front yard that is greatly under appreciated but I hate to waste those massive, established roots! I have been top grafting a branch or two with different scions for the past 4 years. I lost track of the verities that are there, but have started getting an apple or two off some of the branches. My idea is that will be my “snack tree”! Since I pass by it several times a day, I can snatch whatever apple looks ready and snack on it. Any branches that I especially like can be the source of scions for further propagation.

1 Like

Yep, this is what I did. I have best success by cutting limbs withing a couple inches of the main trunk (NOT at the branch collar) to stimulate sucker formation. Then I graft the suckers the next year. Gives VERY vigorous growth and has excellent strength as is close to the trunk instead of way out at the periphery.